Arts and Disability Forum (University of Atypical)

Volunteers of Atypical Project

The Arts and Disability Forum, known as University of Atypical, is a disabled-led charity. They support disabled and D/deaf artists across Northern Ireland.

They received a £10,000 National Lottery Awards for All grant to develop a volunteer training programme.

The project opened opportunities for disabled people and the deaf community through volunteering. University of Atypical were also able to hire a volunteer co-ordinator. This enabled personalised support for the volunteers – making it much more accessible.

Being deaf or disabled can be very isolating. This project opened up volunteering to people excluded from other opportunities. Participants were able to gain confidence, experience and a welcoming community through volunteering.

Volunteers developed new relationships and learnt new skills. They were also able to engage with peers in a way that may not have been possible before.

The volunteer co-ordinator provided personalised support, tailored to the volunteers' needs. One participant said this “made the experience less intimidating.”

The training programme included classes in safeguarding, and was sign language interpreted for accessibility.

The project allowed participants to feel enabled and included in society. The volunteers played an important role, supporting University of Atypical to carry out their activities. This included events such as their annual Bounce Arts Festival.

Comments from those involved demonstrate the impact the project had for them;

“I loved meeting other d/Deaf, neurodiverse and disabled artists and meeting new collaborators and friends.”

“The best part of being a volunteer was meeting new and old faces as well as being a part of a positive, inclusive and understanding community”

What advice do University of Atypical have for groups considering applying to National Lottery Awards for All?

Read the programme information on the website carefully and get in touch with the team at The National Lottery Community Fund to seek advice and guidance if you need to.

Two volunteers from the University of Atypical